Director: Jonas Carpignano
Year of Release: 2015
Running Time: 1 hour 47 minutes
Living in this "Black Lives Matters" moment with all the cultural and socioeconomic implications such a thing implies, creates a context for a film like Mediterranea to feel more germane that it might otherwise. Crucially, writer-director Jonas Carpignano's feature debut chooses to remove an American context and instead focus on a examination of African immigrants living in Italy. Despite the topicality of the subject matter, the film is a slowly paced drama which draws its power from he fact that the characters at its center are seeking a better life economically rather than fleeing war or persecution. The film is also aided immensely by the performance of Koudos Seihon (a real-life refugee) who imbues the lead character Ayiva with charisma, humor, and a commanding tenacity. The idea here is that even in Europe, the chances of Africans finding hope and a better life are just as problematic as in America, and Carpignano tracks Ayiva's journey (joined by a group of fellow wandering migrants) with a naturalistic subtlety. This isn't a film about shouting from a pulpit, although the during the final stretch things do reach a violent tipping point. Rather, Mediterranea interestingly argues that the day-to-day hardships immigrants face has been in some ways both aided and worsened by technology; seen most vividly during a climatic Skype session between Ayiva and his wife and daughter. A sobering, well-acted, neorealist picture about an important subject that wisely never announces its importance.